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Saturday, August 02, 2003

 
PARTY WITH THE YOUNG REPUBLICANS

Young, white and right-wing? You're invited.

Read all about it here.

Scary sidenote: Orange County apparently has enough demand for this sort of thing that it has two competing Reagan Youth affiliates -- the Orange County Young Republicans and the spin-off Orange County Young Republican Federation. Gaah.

Salon's Michelle Goldberg has more on the "Beautiful young shock troops for Bush."

Double gaah.

posted by Fred Clark 5:07 PM


Friday, August 01, 2003

 
THE PRIVATIZATION OF EVERYTHING

Pay phones on the decline -- just like public schools.

The AP's Jeff Dunn offers an update on a story you've probably read before -- the number of public pay phones is dwindling.

Obsolete to many mobile phone users, pay phones may be tempting extinction, suggest figures from the industry group, the American Public Communications Council. From a peak of 2.6 million in the mid-1990s, their number has rapidly withered to about 1.8 million. ...

Half of all Americans -- about 148 million people -- now have cellular phones, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. That's more than 80 times the number of pay phones.


This is a minor example of a major trend -- one that has far more troubling repercussions in other arenas. Pay phones -- a piece of societal infrastructure open to use by all -- are giving way to cell phones, a costly, private expense.

Well, so what? Who needs public pay phones when we've all got cellulars? Who needs public pools when we've all got backyard resorts? Who needs libraries when we've all got Amazon.com? Who needs grandstands when we've all got corporate skyboxes? Who needs public transportation when we've all got our own cars? Who needs public schools when we've all got much-better private ones? Who needs a police force when we've all got private security for our gated communities?

This is what class warfare looks like. That "we" doesn't include everybody. It doesn't even include most people.

So what happens to the people who still rely on payphones and general admission and mass transit and public schools? Well, they're out of luck.

And from behind the walls of the gated communities of their privatized America, the wealthy lecture them not to be envious.

"Here's a quarter," the wealthy say. "Call someone who cares. ... If you can still find a pay phone."


posted by Fred Clark 5:53 PM

 
BAIT AND SWITCH

A utilitarian gamble is not a just war.

This editorial from the (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Star Tribune (via Cursor) states the administration's actual case for war with more clarity and brevity than you're likely to hear it from the administration itself.

In four paragraphs, the Strib editors concisely and -- I think even Paul Wolfowitz would agree -- fairly summarize the basic Neocon argument for the American-led war on Iraq:

Saddam Hussein is a brutal tyrant who routinely thumbs his nose at the United States. His interest in weapons of mass destruction -- if not his possession of them -- is well-established, meaning he may become a threat to the United States and its friends at some point. Moreover, he is in violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions. The United States can make a case for ousting him by military force -- a case that can't be made for any other Middle East leader. So Saddam's the guy.

Removing Saddam will do a number of positive things. In his place the United States and friends can build a peaceful, prosperous, democratic, secular state in Iraq. That in turn will be a powerful catalyst for promoting change and reform throughout the Islamic world. Oppressive, corrupt regimes will become vulnerable because people across the region will want what the Iraqi people now have. And Islamic reform is key to removing the conditions that breed terrorism.

There's also what is called the "flypaper" or "magnet" effect, to which Bush spoke with his famous "Bring 'em on" statement. The idea is that the presence of tens of thousands of American military personnel on the ground in Iraq will make them a magnet for terrorists from around the world. It will pull terrorists away from Israel and the United States to Iraq, where U.S. forces can safely engage them in full-fledged combat and defeat them.

Those American forces also are likely to embolden reformist elements next door in Iran, threatening the rule of the oppressive, America-hating mullahs. On the other side of Iraq, in Syria, terrorist groups such as Hezbollah are likely also to get the message that they'd best behave, lest they too get whacked by the Americans.


This is noteworthy for its clarity, but also because this is, finally, being written in a mainstream newspaper. The Strib doesn't buy this argument, but that isn't the editorial's point. The point is that the American public has never been presented this argument in a candid, straightforward manner. They were, instead, persuaded to support a war on the basis of the flimsiest portions of this argument, and only then after being fed dubious and sometimes fraudulent details about Iraq's supposed imminent threat to American security (the bogus nuclear evidence, the bizarre claim about globe-trotting drones, the consistently implied links to al-Qaida, etc.).

The editorial makes a valid point, but I want here to make another.

That four-paragraph summary of the administration's case for war is useful because, for once, it allows a stationary target for honest debate.

Can anyone, anywhere, provide me with an argument that this presents a case for a just war?

I am not interested in utilitarian claims that the utilitarian gambits of this argument may pay off. Such claims are irrelevant. What I am asking is this: how can this case for war be defended as meeting the centuries-old and well-defined criteria for a just war?

(And, yes, Saddam Hussein was really, really evil. He's ugly too, but neither of these facts, in itself, satisfies the jus ad bello criteria. If you're one of the ostriches, newly blinking in the sunlight, who has recently awakened to the reality of Saddam's atrocities, please do not fill up my inbox with your belated discovery of mass graves in Iraq. Saddam was a brutal, lethal tyrant, worse than you probably realize. That does not, in itself, constitute a case for war.)


posted by Fred Clark 2:58 PM


Thursday, July 31, 2003

 
JAVERT SYNDROME

Proof of innocence doesn't always register with prosecutors and police.

In yesterday's (Del.) News Journal, Esteban Parra relates two remarkable stories.

First, the case of crime victim and prosecution witness April Charles:

April Charles ... testified Jan. 13 in New Castle County Superior Court that she knew who shot her. She and her husband, Joseph Malloy, were shot by two masked men during a home invasion Aug. 22, 2001.

At first Charles couldn't identify the shooters. It wasn't until police provided a suspect that she picked out Elwood Hunter. As her day in court neared, she grew more confident he'd shot her.

"How sure are you that that's the person that had the mask on that shot you that night,'' prosecutor Daniel R. Miller asked Charles during Hunter's trial.

"I'm very sure. I'm positive I know that's him,'' she answered.

"How sure are you on a scale of one to 10,'' Miller asked.

"Eleven,'' she replied.

She was wrong, Hunter's attorney, Jerome M. Capone said. Before the trial ended, Hunter's codefendant, Donald Cole, named the shooter and the charges against Hunter were dropped ...


Charles, a crime victim wounded and traumatized by masked men, was testifying under obviously difficult circumstances. What is notable, however, is how "As her day in court neared, she grew more confident" in her mistaken testimony.

This misplaced confidence also factors in the sad case of George McCray:

According to interviews and Wilmington police reports, Cpl. Joseph A. Blithe, a 15-year veteran of the New Castle County Police Department, was driving near the 900 block of Clayton St. about 8 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2001, when he saw a man trying to take a purse from a woman.

When Blithe, who was off-duty, flashed his lights, the thief ran. Blithe found the man, identified himself as a police officer and prepared to handcuff him. But the officer backed off when the man reached into his waistband as if he had a weapon.

The man ran, turned, hand-gestured that he had a gun and said: "Pop, pop, pop.''

Blithe explained what happened when other officers arrived. They broadcast this description: "A black male, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, heavy-set, wearing blue jeans and a dark-colored sweat shirt.''

A police dog picked a scent off the New York Yankees' cap that the suspect left behind and followed it to the 600 block of Clayton St., where it showed interest in a house.

About then [George] McCray was walking from Rodney Square to his ex-wife's home in the 1800 block of Seventh St. Two patrolmen stopped him.

"They said I fit the description of a purse snatcher,'' said McCray, who was 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds.

Blithe, who was driven to the arrest site but did not get out of the car, identified McCray as the purse snatcher.

"I tried to explain it, but they didn't believe me,'' said McCray, who has a severe speech impediment that gets worse when he is nervous. ...

McCray was taken to Gander Hill prison and held in lieu of a $10,000 bond. "I cried every day I was in prison,'' he said.

Reading the Bible and daily phone conversations with his former wife, Bertina DuPont, kept him from taking his life, he said. DuPont's parents raised enough money to bail McCray out a few days before Christmas 2001. He got out to find he had lost his job, his apartment and many of his personal belongings.

When he heard about the Yankees' cap, Nutter sent it to the state's Medical Examiner's Office, where technicians took four DNA samples from the cap's sweatband. Test results found that the DNA samples belonged to someone other than McCray. The state Attorney General's Office dropped the charges against McCray last month.

Blithe would not comment for this article. But New Castle County police spokesman Trinidad Navarro said Blithe continues to believe McCray is the purse snatcher.


Neither of these stories is unique. Both illustrate an all-too-common phenomenon: the inability of accusers -- be they police, prosecutors or witnesses on their behalf -- to accept that their initial suspicions are wrong even when confronted with undeniable proof of innocence.

I call this phenomenon "Javert Syndrome" after the monomaniacally driven prosecutor in Hugo's Les Miserables. And it is, clearly, a syndrome -- a pathological form of madness in which preconception overrules perception, belief overrules reality.

McCray's case is unusual in that the crime of which he was accused was relatively minor -- purse snatching. Javert Syndrome seems more common when the crime is particularly heinous or brutal, and therefore more traumatic for the law enforcement officials confronted with the difficult responsibility of prosecuting the case.

Police and prosecutors (and the general public), when appropriately filled with revulsion at a horrific crime, will often project that horror and revulsion onto the first person to fall under suspicion. If that initial suspect is later proven innocent, police and prosecutors will usually redirect their focus. Their goal, after all, is to capture and punish the actual perpetrator of the crime.

Sometimes, however, their concern to see justice done has become so inextricably bound to their initial suspicions that they are unable to accept even overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that those first impressions were wrong.

Something clicks. Something irrational and illogical takes over, and police and prosecutors settle into the pathology of Javert Syndrome.

The result is a double injustice.

First, there is the injustice done to the falsely accused. George McCray was traumatized by his weeks in jail. He lost his home, his possessions and his livelihood. And because the arresting officers remain gripped by the pathology of Javert Syndrome, he is denied even the full vindication of having been proved innocent. George McCray remains under unjust suspicion.

(Note that even without the exoneration provided by DNA evidence, the case against McCray was flimsy and contradictory. The officers say the purse-snatcher was "about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, heavy-set." McCray is 6-2, 185. That's not even close to "heavy set." That's Darryl Strawberry. All the police had against McCray was that he was a black male. Apparently they viewed this as sufficient grounds for arrest.)

Second, there is the matter of the actual criminal. Somewhere in Wilmington a purse snatcher remains at large and unpunished. And because the police remain obsessed with a person already proven innocent, they are unlikely to pursue him ever again. Because, as I said, Javert Syndrome is more common when a crime is particularly brutal, the more typical result is that a brutal criminal -- a cop-killer or other vicious murderer and not merely a purse snatcher -- remains at large.

This is the double result of Javert Syndrom whenever it occurs. An innocent is unjustly punished and his life is devastated. A criminal is unpunished and unpursued -- free and emboldened to strike again.

The majority of police, the majority of the time, carry out their difficult and honorable duties responsibly and rationally. Javert Syndrome is anomalous and rare -- but "rare" isn't good enough. It shouldn't happen at all.

This problem arises, as I said earlier, most often in cases where police are confronted with a particularly horrific crime. Dealing with the aftermath and responsibility of such a crime can be traumatic, and that trauma likely plays a role in sparking the pathological response of Javert Syndrome.

The gut-wrenching horror of a crime -- the death of children or of comrades especially -- can be overwhelming, and once the righteous anger arising from such a crime is directed toward a particular suspect it can be difficult to redirect it elsewhere.

Confronted with proof that the suspect is -- in fact and beyond any reasonable doubt -- innocent, police and prosecutors afflicted with Javert Syndrome seem to relive the trauma of the crime. They react to the exoneration of the initial suspect with the same gut-wrenching revulsion and resentment with which they reacted to the crime itself.

When this occurs, police and prosecutors need help -- and, yes, I mean help of the psychological and counseling kind -- to cope with the trauma they are experiencing and to rechannel their appropriate but misdirected desire for justice back into the reality of the case and the pursuit of the actual perpetrator. The enduring effects on the police and prosecutors suffering from this syndrome can be seen as a third kind of injustice. These personnel can be consumed by irresolvable resentment, anger, guilt and trauma. Like Hugo's Javert, they are not fated for a happy ending unless they find a way to change their course and escape from the emotional and professional cul de sac in which they find themselves trapped.

I am not an expert of any kind on matters of psychology or criminal justice, but Javert Syndrome -- whether we call it that or by some other name -- is a real phenomenon. This pathology is an occupational hazard for those on the front lines of our justice system, and pretending it does not exist does little to help them or the other victims of the treble injustice which is its inevitable and regular result.


posted by Fred Clark 10:33 AM


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

 
DR. RICE ON THE HOT SEAT

This AP story, by Pete Yost, shows that the questions about Condoleezza Rice's repeated contradictions and untrue statements have reached the pages of mainstream newspapers -- and perhaps the awareness of the mainstream public.

For a run-down of Rice's credibility problems, see this post, or see David Sirota's "The Amazing Stories of Dr. Rice" on the July 25 Altercation.

Yost calls attention to Rice's comments following the Sept. 11 attacks, which are now being called into question by details from the congressional report on pre-Sept. 11 intelligence. The report includes new details that cast further doubt on Rice's statements, but those statements were already dubious.

Consider: Rice acknowledged that an Aug. 6, 2001 briefing for the president included "information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives," but she insisted that national security officials had no information about "a specific target" or place. That may be -- but how hard was it to imagine that the World Trade Center might be such a target? The building had already been bombed once, in 1993.

But the truly ridiculous statement of Rice's was this:

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

Yost points out:

But the congressional report states that "from at least 1994, and continuing into the summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community received information indicating that terrorists were contemplating, among other means of attack, the use of aircraft as weapons."

Rice's statement was an attempt to deflect responsibility for preventing the attack by praising the al-Qaida terrorists as evil geniuses -- madmen whose brilliant scheme could never have been foreseen. But no one would argue that the hapless Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were geniuses or tactical masterminds. Yet those stunted adolescents had come up with exactly al-Qaida's plan, two years earlier:

If the young killers had survived their initial assault on the high school, their next step, according to Harris' diary, would have been to: "hijack a hell of a lot of bombs and crash a plane into NYC."

If a warped teenager could imagine such a scheme, why couldn't the former Stanford-provost -- whose job and responsibility it was to protect America's "homeland" -- imagine it as well?


posted by Fred Clark 3:29 PM

 
BUSH AND THE UNNATURAL FALLACY

The illogical leap from "is" to "ought" is called the "natural fallacy," (a nice summary of this and other fallacies here).

Just because something is the case does not mean that it ought to be so. You can't get there from here.

Richard Cohen of The Washington Post argues that President Bush seems to base much of his decision-making on a weirdly inverted form of this fallacy -- the idea that "Because it ought to be, it is."

While equally illogical, the effect is startlingly different. Perpetrators of the natural fallacy see the world as it is, and from this draw unreasonable conclusions about how the world ought to be. Their perception of the world itself remains accurate, but their perception of justice and morality is a fantasy. Bush, Cohen argues, begins with his perception of justice and morality -- which may or may not be valid -- and reconstructs the world to fit this vision. Thus his perception of the world as it is becomes a fallacious fantasy.

Time magazine's Joe Klein, like Cohen, engages in some speculative psycho- and metaphysical-analysis of the president.

We can allow these columnists a bit of leeway for their speculation because the president himself refuses to answer questions about what he is thinking. And when he says something like this -- "And we gave [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power ..." -- it is clear that speculation will be required to try to figure out what on earth the president is thinking and how it relates, even tangentially, to the reality the rest of the world is living in.

Klein writes of:

... an aspect of George W. Bush's essential character — specifically, the problem he has with telling the truth. I am not saying Bush is a liar. Lying is witting ... This is weirder than that. The President seems to believe that wishing will make it so — and he is so stupendously incurious that he rarely makes an effort to find the truth of the matter. He misleads not only the nation but himself.

George W. Bush says things that aren't true -- this is a matter of public record. But Klein says it's not because he's a liar, just a "stupendously incurious," delusional man living in a fantasy world.

Cohen reaches a similar conclusion:

Repeatedly, the Bush administration has merely asserted something to be true, neglecting either to prove it or even to make much of a case for it. ...

He believed -- virtually without evidence -- that Saddam and bin Laden were in cahoots. Why? It's hard to say, but probably because they were both evil. Evil leaders do evil things and they do them together. The evidence for this is lacking, to be sure, but you have to take it as a matter of faith. Bush did.

Similarly, it was a matter of faith that once the United States invaded Iraq, it would crumble. That was a given. This explains why an insufficient number of troops were on hand when the war started. It explains further why, once the war was won, an insufficient number of troops were available to control the country. ...

It is the same domestically. The White House this week projected a $455 billion deficit for the current fiscal year. This is a tad off the original mark -- a projected surplus of $334 billion. In the near future, the deficit is expected to grow even more until, suddenly, it will decrease.

Why? Because that's what Bush insists. Somehow, if taxes are cut even further, the economy will do something in some way that will erase the deficit, make the desert bloom and bring happiness to boys and girls everywhere. ...

The favorite Bush grammatical construction is the tautology: Something is bad because it's bad. A synaptic leap is made in which a certain cause will have a certain effect -- never mind why. Things are stated with certainty, but the proof of them is not apparent. ... It doesn't matter. Because it ought to be, it is.


I would find it much more reassuring if we could be sure that President Bush was simply a liar.



posted by Fred Clark 2:47 PM

 
COLORBLIND REPORTING BEARS STRANGE FRUIT

The paper where I work has a laudable poicy of not mentioning a person's ethnicity or race unless it is considered "germane" to the story.

The intention here is the worthy goal of avoiding discrimination through "colorblind" journalism. The difficulty arises in trying to apply this standard. When is a person's race or ethnicity germane? Or, since this is after all America we're talking about, when is it not?

The issue arises frequently in stories of bank robberies -- of which Delaware seems to have more than its fair share. One recent string of seven robberies was conducted by a cool customer whom the paper described as being of average height and build, with dark hair and a mustache. The suspect was also -- although the original draft of the article did not say so -- a white male.

The guideline says that the suspect's race is not germane to the fact that he is allegedly a bank robber. But it is germane to his physical description. More to the point, the fact that the suspect was white was extremely germane to every mustachioed black male of average height and build who might find himself the object of undue scrutiny the next time he walked up to deposit his paycheck. The colorblind assumptions of our editorial guidelines were unlikely to be shared by all of the white employees and patrons of area banks, some of whom would bring racist assumptions to our colorblind story.

That particular case was resolved by running a grainy, surveillance photo of the suspect.

The other frequent case where this colorblind standard conflicts with racist reality is in the reporting of executions. Thanks to the bloodthirsty state of Texas, there is a report of an execution in our paper's "nation briefs" about once a week. We report the name and age of the executed but, because of the colorblind standard, we do not report the prisoner's race or ethnicity. Race is not regarded, by our paper or by the Associated Press, as "germane" to the story.

This is, frankly, absurd. Nothing is more germane to Texas' policy of serial execution or to capital punishment in America than the race of the defendant.

By pretending that this factor is not "germane," we become complicit in the lie that Texas justice is itself colorblind and fair. It is anything but. The AP's reporting of these executions tells the truth, but not the whole truth, so help me God.


posted by Fred Clark 2:06 PM

 
LOU DOBBS, MOUTHPIECE

The invaluable Cursor today links to this insightful analysis of the guerrilla war threatening to boil over in post-Saddam Iraq (the link comes and goes). Ahmed S. Hashim, a Middle East specialist at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., writes:

In order to develop an effective counter to the complex Iraqi situation, the American administration must rid itself of pervasive cultural ignorance and arrogance: These two factors promote the tendency to simplistic approaches, such as the single-explanation theory for the attacks against the U.S.

Cursor follows this with a laughable excerpt from a CNN transcript of Lou Dobbs, who, they say, gives this official American single-explanation theory "a workout":

""In Baghdad, an American soldier was killed today when a supporter of the former regime dropped a grenade onto a Humvee that was in a military convoy. Also today, Saddam Hussein loyalists blew up a pontoon bridge on the river Tigris. It was the first time supporters of the former regime have targeted a bridge."

Lou Dobbs occasionally strays from the official White House line -- he is, unlike the president, concerned about the size of the federal deficit -- but only very rarely. Most of the time, and especially with regard to the war in Iraq, he seems less like a journalist than like an op-ed contributor for a partisan newspaper.

Sometimes, when they don't quite get his makeup right, you can see the grooved lines descending from the corners of his mouth down to where his mechanical jaw opens and shuts when manipulated by the unseen ventriloquist. The man might as well be wearing a top hat and monocle.

The folks at CNN apparently believe that Dobbs is a credible and respectable journalist. I won't be convinced until I see Lou Dobbs reporting on the war in Iraq while Karl Rove drinks a glass of water.

posted by Fred Clark 1:14 PM

 
"JAMES CROW, ESQUIRE"

The Boston Globe sets the standard for reporting on DWB.

In the new State of Black America report from the National Urban League, researcher Robert Hill writes that, over the last 30 years:

"... there has been a strong shift from Jim Crow — the overt manifestation of racial hatred by individuals and white society — to James Crow, Esquire — the maintenance of racial inequality through covert processes of structure and institutions.”

(The Urban League report is, inexplicably,* not available online, but you can read about here.)

The Jim Crow/James Crow distinction is pretty useful. Consider, for example, auto insurance -- a state mandated expense that costs drivers hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

Under old-fashioned, Jim Crow racism, insurers simply would not sell to black motorists. The few who did would charge higher rates than they charged white consumers. The system was overt.

James Crow, Esquire, is subtler, but it is still more difficult for black motorists to purchase insurance. This is partly due to a kind of auto insurance red-lining -- certain neighborhoods pay higher rates than certain other neighborhoods. But it's also partly due to things like the practice of charging higher rates for drivers who have received tickets for moving violations.

And guess who that's more likely to be.

Many still deny the fact that black motorists are more likely to be ticketed than are white motorists. They say the evidence is merely anecdotal. But, as John DiIulio says, the plural of "anecdote" is "data."

Perhaps these skeptics will be persuaded by the copious data compiled and analyzed by the Boston Globe in its award-deserving series "Speed Trap: Who gets a ticket? Who gets a break?" In the latest installment, Bill Dedman and Francie Latour report that, in Massachusetts:

... whites are far more likely than minorities to receive written warnings instead of tickets when stopped for identical traffic offenses, according to a Boston Globe study of newly released state records. ... The price tag for this unequal treatment amounts to an estimated $25 million a year in traffic fines and higher insurance premiums.

For a decade, the national debate over racial profiling has focused on raw accounts of indignity: stops for "driving while black," unjustified searches, videotaped beatings. But in Massachusetts, the most routine use of discretion by police - writing a ticket or a warning - points to a subtler side effect: the economic impact on minorities and men, who are hit with traffic fines and insurance surcharges that others avoid.


Anecdotal evidence? Uh-uh:

Statewide, when local police cited drivers for speeding 45 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone, the most common offense, whites drove away with a ticket 31 percent of the time, while 49 percent of minorities received a ticket. The figures are based on an analysis of 166,000 tickets and warnings from every police department in the state in a two-month period, April and May of 2001. These were the only months for which the Registry of Motor Vehicles collected all warnings as part of a state-sponsored test for profiling.

When factors of race and sex are considered together, the records reveal a tiered system of ticketing. Local police allow white women to drive faster without penalty, while reserving the harshest treatment for minority men. When drivers went 45 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone, white women were ticketed 28 percent of the time in the two sample months; white men, 34 percent; minority women, 44 percent; and minority men, 52 percent.


And keep in mind that:

Oral warnings weren't counted, after police chiefs lobbied against requiring officers to document every stop. And there's no way to know how often officers gave drivers a break -- and a smaller fine -- by citing them at a lower speed than they were traveling.

The whole article, the whole Globe series, is impressive. It's a model of investigative reporting that could, and should, be duplicated by other papers in other states.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

* Inexplicably and indefensibly. This kind self-defeating, 1980s mentality is aggravating. You can order a copy of the report from the Urban League here for $24.95 + $4.50 for shipping and handling.

The League has apparently decided it is wiser to print and sell a few thousand copies of this report for a fee than it is to post and give away several hundred thousand for free. I worked for years for a nonprofit that pursued a similar strategy -- the result of which was a modest trickle of revenue from publication sales; a row of shelves stacked with unsold, unshipped, unread reports; and the continuing irrelevance of the sometimes-important work we were doing. We didn't break even on our publications, and I doubt the Urban League does either.

All a nonprofit accomplishes by keeping its research off the Web is to insure that fewer people have access to it. That's a lousy way to pursue your mission.



posted by Fred Clark 11:16 AM


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